Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, is the keynote speaker at the International Press Institute’s 2006 World Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. He raises three key questions:
First, is public service journalism, broadcasting in particular, under threat? Yes, he says, citing BBC’s commitment to impartial and independent journalism.
Second, should we care? Yes, again, he says. An open market in opinions and ideas is essential in an open society, he says. But “impartial journalism in the public-service tradition,” he says, has a great value as well. It helps create common ground, and helps people be confronted by different values than the ones they hold themselves.
Finally, what can we do about it? It’s not about public service journalism dominating its world, he says, but so that it can persist and remain influential. He suggests that there’s no escaping the civic choice implicit in its existence, which requires investment. It needs public and political support, and then the politicians need “to keep as far away as possible” from interfering; accountability should emphasize independence, he says.
Finally, he notes, globalization offers “intriguing opportunities” in any number of ways. It could be a democratizing force, and environment for independent, reliable news to “find audiences around the world.”
Whose side is the BBC on? “On the side of the facts,” he says.